5 Communication Blunders That Could Damage Your Career

New communication tools such as Slack and Teams have made sharing information with distributed teammates and external clients much easier and faster. But research shows that this influx of tools and messaging apps can lead to embarrassing mistakes that have the potential to damage your relationship with your boss and teammates, and even harm your career.

For instance, 57 percent of professionals admitted that they have mistakenly e-mailed someone the wrong message. Meanwhile, 23 percent have accidently sent a scathing chat message to the same person they were criticizing. Yikes!

Here are five communication mistakes that you can (and should!) avoid at all costs. These apply not only to in-office employees, but also remote workers.

Oops. Wrong Message.

To avoid sharing sensitive information or proprietary documents with the wrong person, always double-check to see where the cursor is pointed before pressing that send button. It only takes a fraction of a second, but can save you years of residual trouble.

Some apps have a feature that double-checks whether you are ready to send a message, or even let you delay or recall a message, advised Mark Strassman, GM and SVP for LogMeIn’s Unified Communications & Collaboration business unit.

While this isn’t a foolproof solution, enabling these types of features will give you a few seconds to make sure you’re aiming at the right recipient.

Forgetting to Mute Your Phone During a Conference Call

Be careful when making off-the-cuff comments to a co-worker before the leader or the other participants arrive on a conference call, as microphones pick up more than you may expect. Some people have inadvertently broadcasted trips to the restroom or under-their-breath comments about conference calls being a complete waste of time.

Don’t assume that the coast is clear when the call appears to be over, either. Some 13 percent of the survey participants said that they have mistakenly assumed that a conference call was finished… when other participants were still on the phone.

If you’re trying to project professionalism, mute your phone until you have something to say. Remember to preview how you’ll look and sound before joining a video conference (and adjust accordingly). Also, avoid having inappropriate notifications or windows appear while screen-sharing by enabling “do not disturb” mode, Strassman added.

Pestering People

The finer points of using Slack can be difficult to master. Unfortunately, some people have learned this the hard way.  

For instance, it can be helpful to tag a specific colleague (or two or three) in a Slack message in channel, so they’re able to see that you’re posting something that requires their attention, noted Matt Haughey, senior writer at Slack, who shared his thoughts on etiquette via email.

But if you default to the @here and @channel tag, it can result in people receiving unnecessary notifications. Which, let’s face it, can be annoying.

Because the @here command notifies all active members in a channel, and the @channel command sends a message to all team members in that channel regardless of whether they’re active, a good rule of thumb is to reserve these commands for emergencies.

As Haughey pointed out: “There is a time and a place for @here and @channel—just be sure to use it selectively.”

Sending Too Many DMs

Leaving a teammate out of the loop, even accidently, can have serious consequences. Research shows that overlooked co-workers are more likely to undermine colleagues, cheat to advance their work group, and tell bold-faced lies to other work groups.

While DMs can be great for certain conversations, they have the power to silo communication and isolate team members. Creating a workplace culture that supports sending messages (not just major announcements) in public channels is a great way to democratize information. It also creates a searchable history of happenings, such as projects and events, in your company or team.

Need to save space? Consider using an emoji in place of short DMs to say things like “got it” or “thanks.” If you must send a DM, incorporating your entire ask within one note is a great way to consolidate all important information into one, easy-to-find message.

Disrespecting Your Co-Workers’ Personal Time

Today’s communication technology makes it possible to communicate 24/7. But sending updates and messages at all hours, especially to someone on vacation or slumbering across the globe, is a sure way to annoy your teammates. Even worse, it signals that you don’t respect them because you don’t see their time as valuable. Plus, it makes a manager’s direct reports feel like they should be working after hours, too.

Think about the recipient’s time zone before sending a tagged note, Haughey advised. Slack’s “shouty rooster” icon makes it easy to be cautious of this when it comes to sending an @channel command. Before sending an @channel in channels with more than 8 people, the icon will display, letting you know the number of people you’re about to notify across multiple time zones. This gives you the option to either edit the message (i.e., remove the @channel command) or send it anyway.

Unless it’s an emergency, postponing or editing your communication seems like the best way to be civil and show respect for your teammates.

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